10 Ways Sales Managers Fail

Cloudy Outlook

Just like sales, sales management requires training. It’s an uphill battle to walk into such a complicated role and see success without any help. Unfortunately, far too many organizations take their top performing salesperson and turn him or her into a sales manager. Other organizations just hire someone for the Sales Manager position and say, “go do it!” That simply doesn’t work. It doesn’t work because – more often than not – we see sales managers (veterans and rookies alike) making mistakes. Here are 10 ways Sales Managers fail:

  1. Unilaterally raising quotas on star performers… or making quotas impossible for marginal performers to achieve. The quickest way to upset any sales team anywhere is to mess with pay plans. Most salespeople – though not all – are driven by income. That’s what turns them on. At the very least, an abrupt change in a pay plan places an emotional barrier on a sense of accomplishment. Don’t ever diminish that. If you decide one day to adjust, reduce, make changes or otherwise alter a pay plan, problems will arise. Instead of making unannounced changes, get support from the team. Plant a seed of change by asking for input. Don’t ignore your team when it comes to their pay, they may have some great ideas.
  2. Having pay plans that are (a) confusing or (b) designed to reduce a salesperson’s income from its current level without an astronomical growth. It’s not overkill to say something so fundamentally important twice: The quickest way to upset any sales team anywhere is to mess with pay plans. Here’s the caveat. If your pay plan is so confusing that your sales team spends all of their time focused on how they get paid instead of making money with it, you’ve got a problem. It’s important to maintain a simple, easy-to-understand pay plan that works with – and for – your sales effort. No matter what you do, salespeople will spend a chunk of their time calculating commissions. You might as well make it simple for them to do – that way they won’t waste as much time on it!
  1. Failing to provide organized sales skills training regardless of salesperson’s experience. Unfortunately, many managers believe that people who have a few years of selling under their belts don’t need any training. Another mistake is to believe that the uninitiated can just learn from their more experienced mentors. That’s wrong. Dead wrong. The truth is that everyone – regardless of experience or age – needs a refresher course every now and then. Sales skills require constant refinement and are always evolving. Ironically, it is often the experienced “old pros” who really know the least. In many cases they have built their book of business and have faltered in skill sets essential for contemporary selling or in winning new business. Too often, they simply rely on 20th Century selling techniques when they really need to turn to 21st Century sales strategies.
  2. Relying on “end-process assessment” rather than “in-process measurement” when evaluating salespeople measuring performance based on pure sales results doesn’t tell you where a salesperson needs to improve or what drove the numbers. That’s an important distinction to make. It’s harder to measure performance throughout the sales process but it gives you a great deal more insight into your team’s ability. It will tell you exactly where improvement needs to be made. Every member of your team is better in some steps of a sale than in others. By more thoroughly understanding where those skill sets lie (and where they don’t) you can more effectively coach your team in-process and see benefits through your end-process assessment. In other words, if you focus on specific weaknesses in the middle of the sales cycle, your team will see better end-results.
  1. Not allowing salespeople to finalize transactions some sales managers don’t permit their salespeople to complete transactions. Salespeople are professionals and should be treated that way. They must have the ability to usher a sale from beginning to end. This mistake is like a football coach who has one player carrying the ball up and down the field and then gives the ball to another to score from the 1 yard line. In our sports analogy – and in the world of sales – that leads to complete frustration, a lack of fulfillment and a failure to continue seeking the goal. Simply put, learn how to manage (and coach) from the field and determine the point at which salespeople must carry the ball themselves.
  2. Lacking a sales platform and subsequently not coaching salespeople in that system too many salespeople believe that “The Gift of Gab” or the ability to connect or “close” is enough and they can go in front of a prospect and “wing it.” What’s worse is that some sales managers agree and even encourage it. That’s wrong. If salespeople want to consistently make more sales with less effort, they must follow a linked, sequential system that leads to completely resistance-free sales. Research clearly shows time after time that a sales platform is essential across the entire sales team. When everyone on a sales team follows the same process, many benefits exist. For example, it leads to the ability to have consistent handling of prospects, the capacity to easily transfer accounts or salespeople and the existence of a “common language.”
  1. Spending too much time with sub-par performers in many cases, sales managers find themselves spending all of their time working with sub-par performers and ignoring top-tier sales professionals. It’s easy to get dragged down into the muck of helping the poorest performers, but the highest returns come from working with the best on your team. Top performers want your attention. They want to be told they’re successful and coached to improve. They need you to help them get better. You will see greater impact from your efforts spent coaching your “A” and “B” players than you will with your “C” and “D” players.
  2. Selling and not managing or managing without selling you can’t teach what you don’t know and you can’t lead where you won’t go. You’ve got to spend time “in the trenches” with your team. If you don’t, you’ll find yourself in a position of weakness – your sales team will take advantage of you and you will become much less effective as a manager. It becomes difficult not getting bogged-down in administrative or managerial paperwork, but it is essential that you keep one foot in the fire. By continuing to chase the occasional lead or making a sale every now and then, you will accomplish two things. First, you will have more credibility with your team. Second, you will have a better idea about the challenges facing your team. You must also fulfill your role as Sales Manager, don’t forsake it. After all, it is what you were hired to do! For many salespeople-turned-managers, this is the biggest challenge. The requirements for successful sales management are completely different from those for success in sales. Before accepting a position as manager, it is important for all candidates to seriously consider the complete change in function.
  3. Not providing adequate training for new product/service releases there’s nothing worse than being a salesperson caught flatfooted in front of a prospect while presenting a new product or service. You’ve got to make sure your team has sufficient knowledge about your new offerings so that they can successfully present them to potential customers. If not done correctly, this has the potential to be a tremendously expensive disaster. Years of research and hundreds of thousands of dollars may go into new product or service development. However, it may all be for naught if the sales team is not appropriately brought up to speed. After all, they’re the ones hitting the streets. They’re the ones in front of the customers explaining this exciting new widget. Your job as sales manager is to ensure they have total product or service mastery before they find themselves in front of their first customer.
  4. Not allowing for individual differences within sales teams People are unique. We know that’s true – we’ve been hearing it since we were knee high to a grasshopper, right? Treat your team that way. We all have individual strengths and we all have individual weaknesses. Capitalize on the former to cover for the latter. A team is strong because of the individuals that make it up. The best sales organizations we’ve seen are the ones that understand the different skills and abilities members of their teams bring to the table and then call on those skills when they’re needed.

The author of this post, Gary Ledford facilitates sales trainings for sales leaders of faith and influence. You can find the Selling by the Book Training Course at info.crown.org/selling-by-the-book.

About Crown Business

Larry Burkett started a business outreach more than 35 years ago teaching and ministering to the business leaders across our land. God has a plan for operating a business and His principles are proven to work! Whether your business is large or small, Crown is here to help. We have developed a specialized and hands-on training to help business professionals become Crown Business Advisors. We have raised up this group of leaders who can help start or grow your business while approaching problems and difficulties with a biblical worldview.

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